Akismet False Positives & Spam Karma Configuration

Spam Karma for me is the most effective comment and trackback spam management solution because it doesn’t cause me problems with false positives on many blogs where I comment on a regular basis.
As a blogger, it is a huge time saver by sending me email notifications a few times per day if it finds entries that are “possible” good comments and trackbacks, but which tripped up one or more of the various algorithms it uses.

Akismet – Proof of False Positives

Just today a reader using Akismet posted about me being a comment spammer. He was joking, but it was because Akismet had flagged one of my comments as spam.

  • It was a brand new blog
  • That was my second comment posted on the blog
  • The first comment I posted was not flagged as spam

A Picture Tells A Thousand Words

Akismet Spammer

7 Months Of Historical Data

  • Most of my readers know I live in Poland, so that could factor into any Akismet calculations. I also use an internet service provider that uses a variable IP address.
  • Most of the comments I have made on 100s of blogs over the last 7 months have been to this domain. A few have included my other public sites for wordpress plugins or google toolbar buttons.

With that amount of historical data I should be able to post a comment about any subject I like, and Akismet should give me the benefit of the doubt


Whenever someone writes a list of plugins featuring Akismet at the top of the list, the blog spammers rejoice.

Blog spam is about eyeballs on their links, even if it is only in an admin panel.

Spammers even target things like referral stats for traffic, making you think someone has linked to your domain to go and check, and for old sites that still have top referrers.

Every time a blogger has to go trawling through their spam folders to check for legitimate comments, the spammers get eyeballs on their links, and with the primary content of spam being the most popular content and products on the internet, their market is not just the links from dead blogs, but also the eyeballs of active bloggers, many of whom are young males, who spend far too much time in dark rooms lit only by the glare from their computers.

Akismet will never succeed in killing comment spam until it totally removes the need of eyeballs on all those links.
It is a noble cause, and I am sure it will eventually be a successful one, but there seems to be something wrong with the collective intelligence, or certainly the “binary” spam/no spam black/white decision process, whereas Spam Karma offers lots of shades of grey.

How To Set Up Spam Karma

One of the biggest problems people face when they think about alternatives to Akismet for spam control is how complicated many of the alternatives are to configure.

I decided the best solution is to provide you with a crib sheet for Spam Karma, featuring the exact settings I use on my blogs.

These settings will result in some comments being flagged for moderation. Some spam will also get through, especially manual spam, and some trackback spam from splogs sending you legitimate trackbacks will also have to be moderated, at least initially.
Some of that could possibly be avoided with the plugins at the end of this article.

Those comments that do get flagged as potential spam end up at the top of the moderation queue highlighted in green, and as people comment more frequently on your blog, the chances of that happening to someone who is a regular is effectively zero.

If you want to add some extra layers of defense, Akismet can still be used as a plugin to Spam Karma, although this is an additional download.

Basic Spam Karma Configuration

Here is the exact basic configuration I use on my sites, some of which have been using Spam Karma for 2 years.

Download Spam Karma

Here is the basic configuration

Spam Karma Settings
Link to Full Size Image

With these settings I get nice emails every 8 hours for potential spam, those comments between 0 and -20 Karma – first time commenters with javascript switched off typically fall around -5
The first 2 or 3 trackbacks (with a link) from sploggers get through, and from then on they dig themselves into a grave never to appear again with the snowball effect, or I can totally blacklist them.

If you wish to also add some collective intelligence to the mix, then you can use the 3rd party developed Spam Karma Akismet Module

If you are using WP-Cache, it is advisable to also use this fix for Spam Karma with WP-Cache.

For Those That Insist On Using Akismet

Use the Antispam Collateral Condolences plugin from Mark Jaquith of B5 Media (announced a couple of days ago that he was joining). I can think of so many blogging network and business blog things that Mark’s talents could be put towards, and I might have to convince Aaron that he needs them ;)

Engtech’s Auntie Spam plugin for Greasemonkey which allows you to search through Akismet spam faster.

Alternative Plugins

Recently I have been hearing good things about using http:BL and the Simple Spam Filter
Some people swear by Bad Behaviour

I have seen lots of people test other combinations, but almost everyone I know who has an in-depth knowledge of plugins (independent of Automattic developers) and who has experience using Spam Karma ends up returning to it, possibly with the use of Akismet as an additional filter.

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  1. says

    Oddly, I’ve never used Spam Karma, and for now my current combination works quite well: 500spams in Akismet> 1 or 2.

    I found Bad Behavior to have an immediate effect, although it did have a problem with Indian IP’s for some reason. The latest version appears to have cured that.

  2. says

    many of whom are young males, who spend far too much time in dark rooms lit only by the glare from their computers.

    That got my attention real quick. Because that’s me. Right now at 7:30 AM because I usually want to check to see that my server is still connected. :P

    In any case thanks for sharing. I think that I will definitely have to take a look at this plugin later (right now all I’m doing is using Akismet because it has worked for me).

    On another note, I’d like to say that even though you are generally an SEO-targeted blog, I have enjoyed that you also cover a larger number of topics, especially wordpress-related things. It spices things up and makes your blog that much more interesting.

  3. says

    I really like Spam Karma I’ve been using it since last year.

    I have the same issue with Akismet on a few blogs visit it views me as spam. I’ve commented on numerous blogs over the past few years I really didn’t think I would be still facing this issue.

    On average, I receive at least 100 spam daily.

  4. says

    Thanks for this post. First impression is that this is very useful information. I am in the process of migrating to wordpress, so I will keep spam karma in mind.

  5. says

    Looks like this is something I’m going to have to check out. Thanks for providing all your settings, that’s especially helpful.

  6. says

    I never used Aksimet. I just moderate my comments on a daily basis.

    I bulk delete the spam and approve the good comments. It takes me 1 minute per day.

    For now, I will stay like this.

  7. says

    Okay, I installed it yesterday, configured it, and until now I haven’t had to deal with one single spam comment. Everything works perfect, no false positives.

    Thanks again Andy. Exactly what I was looking (and hoping) for.

  8. says

    Hi Andy

    Another great “how to” article. One good thing about setting up a new blog, is that it takes a while for the spammers to catch up. Consequently, I’ve only had 450 spam in the last 4 weeks, but will certainly look at this plugin when it becomes necessary.

    BTW, I had to fish one of your comments out of Akismet too. Was really surprised to see it there! But the false positives are fewer as time goes on.

  9. says

    I get over 1,000 spam comments every day. I used to be able to wade through them to find any false positives but now, I don’t have the time to sift through 50 pages of possible spam comments!

    I trust Akismet to weed out the bad stuff.

  10. says

    Andy, as for your comment about eyeballs on those spam links, this logic seems to fail when one has to go through the initial period of “teaching” Spam Karma what is good and what is not. So those same weak willed people illuminated in their dark rooms are still prone to looking at the same links.

    Secondly, there never is a silver bullet for spam. It is the nature of the internet, especially for something as freely available as Spam Karma. Spammers simple pay for programmers to look for the exploits and write a script to take advantage.

    I’ll be writing up more on my own blog.

    • says

      Leo I would disagree with that

      Trackbacks from splogs need some training certainly, but I think in the time I have been running Spam Karma, on multiple domains, I doubt more than 5 potentially offensive spam messages have got through… and I don’t use Akismet as an additional filter.

      Most spammers spend as little time on each site as possible, and don’t fake the javascript, so Spam Karma stops most of that stuff dead.

      I have some public blogs listed in my MBL profile, which use Dofollow, have some reasonable pagerank, and comments are swiched on, even on old content.

      At least one of those blogs I haven’t even visited in a month.

      In fact I should do a couple of upgrades on them, but I wouldn’t have to visit them to check my spam filters for false positives every couple of days.

  11. says

    I’m converting my site to drupal and was going to install askimet. My current site gets spammed A LOT and any help I can get I’ll take. It does concern me that I may lose potential clients by the spam blocker, but the gains outweigh the negatives. I know that some spam will still get through, but at least if the majority of it is gone than I can handle the rest.

  12. says

    I had to laugh at the comment about young males being trapped in dark rooms for too long – I guess being female helps in this instance :-)

    I do like akismet, and haven’t found too many false positives. Though I must admit to not always looking through them properly when the volume of spam got too high

  13. Dan Thies says

    You know, I’d be happy if I could find one comment spam plug-in that consistently recognized the posts that say:

    I couldn’t understand some parts of… (etc.)

    The exact phrase. Exactly the same every time. Yet NONE of them catches it consistently. I mean honestly, how hard could it be? You know EXACTLY what it’s going to say!

    I usually fish about 1 in 100 Akismet “spams” out as a legit comment, and I find that Akismet does save me some time. I’m gonna give the Auntie a try.

  14. says

    Well, I started with Spam Karma and was happy with until one bad day came – my hosting provider closed my account because it was using too much of CPU resources, mostly because of DB queries generated by spambots and Spam Karma fighting them. Changing the hosting company isn’t an easy task, especially when you want to get you site running again – I had to get rid of Spam Karma and switch to Akismet.

    The biggest problem with Akismet is that once one of my regular commenters gets flagged as spammer (with no apparent reason), he stays flagged that way no matter how often I “no spam” him. Akismet is supposed to learn but I have yet to see the results of those lessons.

  15. says

    I just wrote a little piece about Askimet. I was wondering if you have noticed the same phenomenon as I have. I seem to have very little spam on my WordPress blogs until the day that I activate Askimet. The day after it’s activated Askimet is already catching an unusual increased amount of spam. After this 3rd time of noticing this happening I wrote a little note to Askimet.

    The artlicle is called Askimet, are you sending me spam. All last week Google listed my article in the #1 spot when typing in “askimet sending spam.” Today the listing magically and completely disappeared from Google — are they protecting an advertiser. Hmmm… Any thoughts?

  16. says

    Great post :)

    But i really prefer Akismet over other spam protection :)

    The latest version of Akismet is very neat and improved.

  17. says

    Are you saying that ‘Span Karma’ allows more spams and is not as particular as Askimet?

    If that’s the case, why would I want that?

  18. says

    I notice that Spam Karma is not going to be supported beyond the next release – with wordpress 2.5 on the horizon, does this mean we’ll need to consider alternatives??

  19. says

    Spam no matter where it comes from is a pain. But for the few times this has flagged you I wonder if it will continue to have value. This may be over my expertise but I will ask the people I trust that monitor the site to let me know what they think. Thanks for the heads up.

  20. says

    I have the askimet on one of my blogs and there are indeed some false positives and sometimes things get through as well that shouldn’t. I think I will look into the spam karma one that you mention.

  21. says

    I’ve heard from friends that have used Askimet that they receive a good number of false positives. One of them continued receiving what he thought was a very high number of them so he quit using it, and I never tried it out because of his experience. I’ve just recently been reading some better reviews on spam karma, and now that I’ve read this post, I might check them out myself.

    Thanks for the info.

  22. says

    I did the same thing you did and used a blog I haven’t even setup yet to test how it was handling comments and yep…went straight to spam. I’ve been doing a lot of tests and I’m really unhappy with the results.

  23. says

    Andy, as for your comment about eyeballs on those spam links, this logic seems to fail when one has to go through the initial period of “teaching” Spam Karma what is good and what is not. So those same weak willed people illuminated in their dark rooms are still prone to looking at the same links.

  24. says

    Sadly a lot of people due :(

    Dateline did an interesting story about catching an ID Thief and started tracking back the spam and just kept following the trail 2 years later and in Africa they “met” the closest person to the organization who in the end admitted what it was and said, “What are you going to do about it?” and left the room.

    Scary -


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